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Hong Kong cargo giant introduces its first robot to enhance efficiency


The largest independent cargo handler at Hong Kong International Airport has turned to robotic technology to help it locate and retrieve spare parts in its newly opened Automated Parts Store (APS).

According to Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Limited (Hactl),  the new robotically-operated parts dispensing system enables urgently-needed spares to be quickly accessed around the clock, both for routine maintenance and in the event of occasional breakdowns.

Hactl’s automated and highly complex Container Storage System (CSS) has 11 levels, is 260 metres long and features a giant ULD racking system that holds 3,500 units and stores and retrieves up to 8,000 tonnes of air cargo per day.

The new APS features an automated robot that manages more than 200 multi-compartment bins, housing all of the most commonly-used spare parts.

On visiting the APS, technicians simply scan the code for the relevant parts, and input quantities needed, via a user terminal. The robot then takes the shortest route to retrieve the parts and serve them to the waiting technician.

The APS robot weighs around 270kg, and can lift up to 40 kilogrammes and automatically re-charges itself at its home station whenever it is inactive.

Although the APS is technically a ‘human free’ zone with 24-hour CCTV surveillance coverage, the robot is fitted with intelligent sensors to avoid any potential collision with personnel or property.

The new APS system automatically updates stock levels after every pick, so no part stock is ever exhausted. When stocks do need to be replenished, the robot collects these from parts store staff at the counter, and places them in the correct location on the racking.

The new APS means technicians can collect any of the most frequently-needed spare parts at any time of day or night, and reduces the time taken to do so by around 50%.

Hactl’s chief executive, Wilson Kwong, enthuses: “Hactl is a mission-critical operation for its customers and the whole airport, so minimising downtime is vital in the daily operation of our core Cargo Handling Systems.

“The APS robot will immediately save more than 1,500 man-hours per annum, while a mobile app that enables technicians to order spare parts from any location will also be introduced in due course, further improving our efficiency.”

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